| The Taunton Daily Gazette
TAUNTON — Flavia Hungaro has come a long way, both in terms of miles and the process, towards opening one of the first retail marijuana shops in Taunton.
She’s now at the finish line, hoping to open LMCC — short for Local Motion Cannabis Company — as soon as March or April of this year.
Her story begins in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she was born and raised.
Hungaro, 35, moved to the U.S. in 2003, originally settling in Michigan, as part of an exchange program.
She planned to move back to Brazil, using her newly improved English skills to get a better job, but instead she began working at a resort and decided to stay.
Eventually, Hungaro moved to Framingham, where there is a large Brazilian community. She attended Massachusetts Bay Community College, earning her associate’s degree, and then transferred to Boston University, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2013.
At BU, Hungaro also met her husband, Louis Hicks. His mother, Irene Hicks, is now the co-owner of LMCC.
During her time in college and after, Hungaro, who lives in Belmont, worked as a bookkeeper, at a restaurant, at the Crown Plaza Hotel and Whole Foods, gaining lots of experience in the hospitality industry.
But the whole time, Hungaro said, she had an eye on the marijuana business, seeing the potential in a budding industry.
“In college, you’re talking about new markets and stuff like that. So I’m thinking about something new — a new industry,” she said. “And I knew this was something that was going to be really big. But at the time, they were mostly talking about medical cannabis.”
Once marijuana was legalized in 2016, Hungaro said, she started looking for locations to start up a business. She said this is one of the hardest parts of the process of opening a marijuana business, as many property owners do not want to work with someone trying to work in the cannabis industry.
But it was in Taunton that Hungaro found not one, but two properties that would be suitable for a cannabis retail location.
Eventually, Hungaro finalized her agreement for a property at 83 County St., where she plans to open LMCC.
She also has an agreement for a property at 30 Sherwood Drive, where she plans to cultivate marijuana. She is still in the earlier stages with that project, having obtained a host-community agreement but not yet a license.
“The opportunities that this industry offers — there’s just so many things you can do,” she said.
Hungaro ceded leadership for opening a retail marijuana location at the second property suitable for retail cannabis to Kyra Fernandez, a social equity retail marijuana applicant who plans on opening HTC Trinity there.
“My goal is to be supportive of social equity companies,” she said. “One other reason why I ended up working with Kyra is because I felt that it wasn’t easy for me [to get to where I was] and I already had [the property] in hand, so the best thing would be to help somebody who would be basically in the same position as me and have the same opportunity.”
Hungaro is also a social equity applicant due to her husband’s having been convicted of a drug crime in his youth.
“Things are changing,” she said. “And it shows how the system has acknowledged that it shouldn’t have been such a big issue in the past.”
Hungaro plans to sell marijuana flowers, edibles, accessories, oils and other standard cannabis products in her shop. She said she plans to hire 10 to 12 people as budtenders, managers and packagers, and will be hiring more if she is able to cultivate marijuana as well.
In her shop, Hungaro is planning to decorate by bringing a little Brazilian culture in — having pictures of some of its biggest tourist attractions line the walls. But really, she’s just excited for that moment when she can finally open the doors and let the customers into her shop.
“It’s been a long process, and many times I was like, ‘Am I gonna make it?'” she said. “So now that I’m getting closer, a few months away hopefully, I think it’s going to be the customers coming in that’s going to really be the sign that we were successful.”